Pinkerton - (DGC Records)Ah, yes, the sophomore slump. The dreaded second release that finds a fickle public and an even more fickle press looking for the slightest evidence of failure. If they can't find it, they certainly aren't above inventing it. Never before has rock and roll turned into a "flavour-of-the-month" club to the extremes it has seen in the 1990s. "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" has become "Here Today, Gone 10 Minutes Later". It's a shame for many bands. Especially Weezer.
Often lumped in with other hard rock alternative-radio bands, Weezer developed one of the most easily recognizable styles in a genre that is extremele homogenized. When you hear their bottom heavy, sustain-filled, power-chord driven guitars, falsetto backing vocals, and playful if sometimes dark lyrics, you can be sure you're listening to Weezer. What appealed so much about Weezer is that for lovers of hard fuzzy rock, they offered an alternative to the "grunge" scene that became high on self-importance.
Which brings us to Pinkerton, the band's fine latest release. With the opening Tired Of Sex smashing out of your speakers, Weezer wants the listener to know that their trademark sound is indeed unwavering. Highlighted by its new-wave overtones and a great crashing when the song kicks in, Weezer ended up writing the song that Kurt Cobain, a self-professed fan of new wave, would wish he had written. Getchoo delivers more of the same, with its heavy guitar and solid drumming from Patric Wilson.
Weezer's arrangements, particularly on the vocal side, reveals their hook - and that is that they can write incredibly catchy material. Even at their most peculiar and disjointed, as in Across The Sea, Weezer has the ability to keep such songs rooted in pop appeal. No small feat. Throug embellishments that reveal their exceptional skills at arranging songs, Weezer knows that it's the funky break in El Scorcho and shouting chorus that can be manipulated into something that we can find ourselves humming into the middle of next week.
Steady driving beats propell much of Weezer's material. Why Bother? has very punk sounding verses that lead to a memorable chorus, all to a pounding rhythm. The same goes for Falling For You. Rivers Cuomo continues to use the limitations of his voice to his advantage, giving many songs the innocent quality that was so appealing on their debut release. Across The Sea i probably Cuomo's finest singing moment on the CD along with the the somber closing track Butterfly. While obviously pained, the character singin Butterfly evokes an emotional response that is genuine and never affected. This is all accomplished by a singer whose voice really isn't all that great.
Guitar power is always an issue with Weezer, with the band normally preferring to power-out chords and let their amps do most the work. Pinkerton expands on this however, with the repetative string bending on El Scorcho and the very nice choppy guitar on The Good Life. The latter tune also benefits from an extremely heavy bass line courtesy of Matt Sharp.
There's plenty of fun to be had on Pinkerton as well, with a couple of the songs mentioned above as well as the infectous Pink Triangle, the closest this CD gets to their hit Buddy Holly. Weezer presents itself as a musical entity difficult to define, but appealing nevertheless. The band, particularly songwriter Cuomo, have chosen to apply complex arrangements to songs that could be simplified into pure pop. Normally, this is a dangerous pursuit as such ambition has led to countless flops. Weezer, however, takes the chance with confidence and unlike many others, they have what it takes to succeed.